The National Dental Survey performed by BUPA Dental Care revealed that over 2 million UK adults hadn’t been to the dentist in over a decade.[i] This worrying in a number of ways, as not only does it show a significant number of people are avoiding dental care but it also raises the question – should we be doing more to educate the public and our patients?
Substantiating this viewpoint the report detailed that more than a third of British people mask or ignore dental pain with the use of painkillers instead of curing it with a visit to the dentist – an astonishing statistic that makes it clear that so much more needs to be done to educate the public about the benefits of dental care.
The findings of the survey also revealed that many British people skip brushing their teeth if they are in a rush and that a third of them never floss or visit the hygienist either. In a way these statistics are less surprising – how often have you told a patient they need to floss and they return with no change? It still indicates a widespread problem that we, as professionals, need to do our part in changing. To combat these statistics we need to explore new methods of guidance to ensure that the message really sinks in.
One method that I think could make a big difference is a wider use of dental photography. Not only does this ensure patients will be able to visually see the damage that they are causing to their teeth, but it is also a useful way to track the progress of any treatments you offer.
Another method worth exploring is the introduction of technology with visual aids such as animations and diagrams. Not only do these help educate patients by detailing procedures in a way that they can understand, but they also prove to be invaluable resources when faced with patients who have been repeatedly given advice and don’t seem to take it on-board.
Whatever the reason behind this wide-scale neglect it’s clear from reports like these that there is more work to be done. Professionals need to be vigilant when encouraging good oral care habits in our patients, and if that means we should explore new methods to make them aware of the dangers then it’s something worth considering.
Of course, patients too must take some responsibility, however, when making it clear to our existing patients that regular brushing and interdental cleaning are a necessary part of maintenance and giving best service we possibly can, we can reassure those who have avoided the dentist for years that seeing us isn’t as scary as they may think. This will hopefully help to minimise the statistics detailed by this worrying report over time.
[i] Dentistry.co.uk. Over 2 Million Brits Haven’t Seen a Dentist in More Than a Decade. Link: http://www.dentistry.co.uk/2018/05/25/2-million-brits-havent-seen-dentist-decade/ [Last accessed june 18].